GERS Administrator Confident After Meeting with Governor’s Team

Chart showing projected failure of GERS from Bryan/Roach campaign material.
Chart showing projected failure of GERS from Bryan/Roach campaign material.

Austin Nibbs, administrator for the Government Employee Retirement System, told the Board of Trustees Monday he is no longer pessimistic about the future of the retirement system, which is predicted to fail as early 2023.

He said he was on Cloud 9 after meeting with members of the new administration.

Although he gave no specifics about how the financial issues could be resolved, he said he was encouraged by the administration’s “positive feedback and willingness to work with the system.” He said he planned to have weekly meetings with members of the administration.

The first meeting this year contrasted greatly from his first meeting with then Gov. Kenneth Mapp, he said. Mapp was often critical of GERS and often ignored requests from its managers.

Last July Nibbs told senators he had strong doubts about Mapp’s plans to prolong the life of the system. Mapp proposed GERS sell Havensight Mall and money from the latest refinery deal should be earmarked for GERS.

At an August conference on the future of the government’s retirement system, then-candidate and now Gov. Albert Bryan had a detailed plan concerning GERS. Mapp did not attend.

Bryan recommends revisions to the current system, proposed new sources of tax revenue to pay down the unfunded GERS liability, and infusing cash into the system. New employees would be entered into a new hybrid plan – Define Benefit/Defined Contribution plan. The plan would not affect what present retirees receive.

Nibbs comments Monday came at the trustees meeting, teleconferenced from the GERS buildings on St. Croix and St. Thomas, in a discussion about scheduling the board’s upcoming retreat. Even though he was optimistic, he said plans had to be made about the future – a future that probably includes less money coming in then is committed to go out and a GERS with no assets. He said that as early as next year GERS will be operating with only “bonds and cash” with no equity funds. Nibbs said he planned to meet with Delegate Stacey Plaskett to see if federal help was available for GERS.

The Source contacted the delegate’s and the governor’s offices to get a comment for this story but did not receive a reply.

Nibbs reported 8,586 retirees on the Dec. 31 payroll. The total payments – Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 were $62 million. Five retirees were deleted in that time period and 106 were added. For the Jan. 15 payday, 37 new retirees are expected to be added.